Make the McKenzie Connection!


uest Opinion

Easter was a pretty big deal, growing up in Hood River, Ore. We’d dress up especially nice for Mass at Saint Mary’s, of course, and I remember frowning to myself because you’d see people at church on Easter that you never saw any other time of the year. We went to mass every damn Sunday but here were these people, strolling in all holy and high and mighty a couple times a year.

We always had a big meal afterward. Ham, usually, I think, and Mom’s famous cinnamon rolls. Many years we went to our grandparents’ place in the country outside of Mosier, five miles up the Columbia River east of Hood River. We’d do an egg hunt with real eggs, boiled, dyed and hidden outside among Grandma’s garden rocks. None of this plastic eggs filled with candy shit like our own kids grew up finding. One of my cousins used to crack his eggs by smacking them on his head, which was damn painful. Better to tap the them on a piece of petrified wood.

We’ve got another old black and white photo somewhere of Paul with some of the cousins when they were little, bundled up, grinning and holding the eggs they found.

Paul isn’t grinning in photos any more. He died of cancer 11 years ago today, on Easter Sunday. It fell on March 31 that year, too. He was only 67, which seems younger and more of a shame and more of a loss every year. He should have had so much more time with his lovely wife, children and grandchildren, and with his legions of friends. And with his brothers and sisters.

I’d visited him that Sunday. His eyes were closed and his breathing was shallow. I cried some more as I sat beside his bed, then I drove home. He lived in a country area called Kings Valley, about an hour and half from Portland, and he died about the time I pulled off the freeway. I cried hard when I got that news, sitting in my living room, with my wife and my younger kids consoling me. “You’ve still got me,” my youngest told me.

The thing is, it was a brilliant, blue sky day.

Because I swear the sun always came out on Easter Sunday, no matter how crappy the weather had been leading up to it. No matter the storms. No matter the loss. No matter the hurt.

Just now, no kidding, the sun finally cleared the morning clouds and flooded the basement window where I write. There he is.

Eric Mortenson is a Pacific Northwest writer who spent 37 wondrous years at Oregon newspapers. Per Eric: “I’m a husband to one wife, dad to four kids, and a useful human to two dogs and two cats.” Subscribe for free at: [email protected].


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